Stadia Joins The League Of Extraordinary ‘Killed by Google’ Projects

In 2019, Google introduced Stadia during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. As a cloud gaming service, Google described it as “one platform for everyone” – one that can stream games from the cloud to the Chrome browser, Pixel devices, and Chromecast. Against this background, Google had also planned to set up its own gaming studio for exclusive titles. Stadia has been touted as the next disruptive thing in gaming.

Around the same time, journalist Maddy Myers sat down for an interview with Phil Harrison, VP and general manager at Google. Myres asked him, among various other questions, whether Stadia was just an ambitious Google project that would suffer the same fate as discontinued products like Google Plus. To which Harrison replied, “This is by no means a trivial project. This is a very, very significant cross-company effort that not only affects my team, but also YouTube, our technical infrastructure, and our network team. It represents thousands of people working on this business.”

Cut to three years later, the statement hasn’t aged well. The curtains have fallen on Stadia, and according to the announcement, the service will shut down completely on January 18, 2023. “And while Stadia’s approach to streaming games for consumers is built on a strong technological foundation, it hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected, which is why we made the difficult decision to discontinue our Stadia streaming service,” Harrison said wrote in Google’s official blog.

Stadia’s end

Though ambitious, Stadia was met with a lot of skepticism when it launched in 2019. Given Google’s history of shutting down companies that don’t start, many people smear it. Some critics also pointed out the high cost of games, especially because the user would not own them.

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The company also hired Ubisoft and EA industry veteran Jade Raymonds to build the internal game development arm, naming it Stadia Games and Entertainment. In an interview, Raymonds said her team built several first-party studios within Google to release exclusive titles. She added that the ultimate goal is to release these exclusive games to take advantage of cloud computing infrastructure, including integrations with Google Assistant, physical simulations, and other larger environments.

Just two years later, Google discontinued its Stadia Games and Entertainment. At the time of its closure, the exclusive studio had zero games to its name, despite the company’s high hopes for the device at the time of its release. Raymond left Stadia shortly after.

Following the news, a Bloomberg report revealed that Stadia missed Google’s internal sales estimate by hundreds of thousands fewer controllers; In addition, the number of monthly active users signing up had also decreased. This led to another high-profile exit. John Justice, then Vice President and Head of Product, left Google Stadia.

After Google announced it was shutting down Stadia for good, the company announced that it would refund all hardware purchases made through the Google Store, as well as games and add-on content purchased through the Stadia Store. Much of the refund process will be complete by mid-January 2023, by which time players will still have access to their game library.

Given the platform’s technological advances, Google has plans to apply the underlying technology to other entities such as YouTube, Google Play, and other augmented reality efforts.

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Google is notorious for shutting down its not-so-successful projects. Many of these decommissioned apps/services which many believe could prove successful given good scrutiny. There are several websites that specifically track the number of “cancelled” Google apps and projects. One of the most well-known is called Killed by Google. It lists up to 273 apps that have been shut down by the company.

The future of cloud gaming

While Stadia hasn’t stood the test of time, it ushered in a new era of cloud gaming. It helps gamers who want to play without getting tangled up in terms of costs, maintenance, and energy bills. While Stadia was starting out, other companies soon introduced their own versions of cloud gaming, such as Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon.

Compared to Stadia, other companies’ ventures offered services at a much lower cost. Case in point: Amazon’s Luna, which offered a single monthly fee for unlimited access to a library of titles rather than charging for individual games. Microsoft didn’t launch the Xbox Cloud Gaming initiative as a standalone service, instead using it as an add-on to Xbox Game Pass.

Similarly, Sony has combined its two subscription services into a single option, rebranding Playstation Plus, which includes an enhanced version of Sony’s cloud services for higher subscription tiers. Other features include using cloud technology to emulate Playstation 3 to stream games from their library.